Is there such a thing as a bad manual transmission?

Colin
By Colin Wood
Nov 7, 2022 | Manual, transmission, Automatic, Discussion, Gearbox

Photography Credit: Courtesy Chevrolet

We’re all for saving the manual and choosing to row our won gears whenever we get the chance, but when has opting for the manual gearbox been a letdown?

Is there truly such a thing as a bad manual transmission, or are there gearboxes that are simply better than others?

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madmrak351
madmrak351 Reader
11/7/22 12:58 p.m.

If it was a 3 on the tree with a non-synchronized 1st gear I might go automatic. I have seen a few clutches that made the experience less enjoyable than it should have been, however most of those were self inflicted.

paddygarcia
paddygarcia GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/7/22 1:11 p.m.

Nothing was really a good choice with a Chevy Citation, but the 4 speed transaxle (actually 3 + OD) did nothing to help the sorry engine move the sorry car. The dumptruck-like throws of the worst-feeling cable shifter ever were icing on the cow patty. 

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand UberDork
11/7/22 1:31 p.m.

A couple of notably bad manuals I've experienced -

Bull-nosed v4 Saab with the free-wheeling transmission.  You basically wiggle, shimmy, push and pull the linkage until some form of forward motion occurs and try not to mess with it.  

VW Corrado SLC - defintely had a gearbag with a rope linkage, but still a fun car. 

Unpopular opinion maybe - 911s with the 915 gearbox.

All that said, I wouldn't have opted for an automatic in any of those cars.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/7/22 1:40 p.m.

Probably the worst I have driven was a T56 in a Mustang.  Shift throws were ridiculously stiff and notchy, and the cable mechanism for the clutch sucked even more than normal for a Fox.

 

Toyman!
Toyman! GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/7/22 1:42 p.m.

Any manual transmission I have to daily drive is a bad manual. They are fun for the occasional drive or the track, but I have zero interest in dealing with one on a daily basis. 

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/7/22 1:43 p.m.

Oh, definitely. The worst I've ever driven was an Ariel Atom with a Honda K. 6 in the air, absolutely no indication of where a gear might be. I ended up just leaving it in 3rd so I didn't do something expensive. An automatic would have been a big improvement because then it actually would have had gears.

msterbeau
msterbeau Reader
11/7/22 1:45 p.m.

Almost certainly.  It may be that the gearbox itself has been poorly engineered.  Or there may be just one specific issue but in daily use it occurs often and ruins the whole experience.  It could be that the linkage or some part of the actuating mechanism is badly designed.  Same outcome.  I'm finding that pedal location, particularly of the clutch and it's disengagement point can provide a fair bit of annoyance. If you're trying to shift quickly and that point far into the pedal travel you may not be completely disengaging the engine from the gearbox.  That results in either grinding, a reluctance for the car to go into the next gear or both.  I'm driving a Kia Forte GT and it suffers from some of the last two things I mentioned.  When it works it's great.  But the amount of balking and missed shifts is way too many to be driver error alone.  

RadBarchetta
RadBarchetta New Reader
11/7/22 1:47 p.m.

Chevy Cruze had the sloppiest, slowest manual transmission I've ever had the displeasure of driving. If stuff like that is reason for low take-rates, I can't say I blame anyone.

Matt B (fs)
Matt B (fs) UltraDork
11/7/22 1:59 p.m.

Friend in high school had a foxbody stang with some sort of four banger swapped in.  I have no idea what it was hooked up to, but it was a classic wooden spoon in a box of rocks kind of experience.

93gsxturbo
93gsxturbo UltraDork
11/7/22 2:10 p.m.

In the drag racing world, the bulk of the fast DSM guys have gone to automatics.  Way less driveline shock and hold power a lot better.  Pretty funny because when I first got into DSMs you couldnt give away the automatic transmission cars and you would just toss the whole driveline during a partout.  Now everyone wants the automatic stuff.  

I cant say I would want a manual in my 2021 F150, but I didnt mind the auto in my 2002 F250 with the Powerstroke.  Something about rowing gears on a big diesel was very enjoyable. 

Apis Mellifera
Apis Mellifera Dork
11/7/22 2:12 p.m.
Tyler H said:

VW Corrado SLC - defintely had a gearbag with a rope linkage, but still a fun car.

I can't think of a worse manual experience.  I had a Rabbit and even with new bushings, when deliberately guided in the direction of a desired gear, it would often be a surprise which one you actually got.  The shift pattern on the gear knob should have been a Venn diagram instead of an H.  When I sold the car, the new owner pushed down on the shift knob to select reverse and the entire lever assembly fell out the bottom of car leaving the knob retracted into the shift boot like George Costanza after a cold swim.  Real big piece of junk.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
11/7/22 2:21 p.m.

What's worse, an awful manual  or an awful automatic?

jharry3
jharry3 GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/7/22 2:24 p.m.
Appleseed said:

What's worse, an awful manual  or an awful automatic?

I remember GM having 2 speed automatics on some of their cars in the 60's/70's.  Low and High.   

maschinenbau
maschinenbau GRM+ Memberand UberDork
11/7/22 2:36 p.m.

My past DD Saturns were manual, and that was the only good things they had going for them. The S-series shifter was pretty cheap feeling and the single-piece plastic clutch hydraulic system made for at best a vague pedal and at worst a sponge. The Astra 5-speed shifter was described by Motor Trend as feeling "like a chicken leg stuck in a jar of marbles". Yet I like them both, and both would have been far worse as automatics. 

amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter)
amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
11/7/22 2:55 p.m.

The 5speed mt in the s197 was so bad that I grew to hate driving it. Sold it off. 

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
11/7/22 3:13 p.m.

Leyland/Austin Mini "pudding stick" is the worst ever. Mein gott is that thing garbage. The shift pattern is a box, not an H. I could never figure it out.

I'll also echo Pete about the Terminator. I've driven a GTO and that T56 was fine, but the one in the Cobra was super stiff with no indication of what gear it's in, or if it's in gear.

Appleseed said:

What's worse, an awful manual  or an awful automatic?

I've driven both so bad they were endearing. My friend's Monte Carlo SS TH400 that skipped 2nd gear was a treat. An old Kodiak with a 8.2/Allison that slam shifted 4th if you didn't know to let off at the right point. A Mercedes 190D with 1' of throw front to back and only 1" side to side.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
11/7/22 4:12 p.m.

Most bad manuals can be traced to the shift linkage itself. For the others it's the super wide transmission ratios that let them down.

For a daily driver I prefer a manual (I need something to do or my mind wanders).

For tow vehicles I go with an automatic; although my 68 F100 was a manual.

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/7/22 4:19 p.m.

The 5 spd in my '95 Cummins wasn't great.  An automatic would have given me a lot more purchase options (instead of the turd I bought...) and arguably better reliability.  The "solution" for the 5 spd was to upgrade to the later 6 spd. Better, but still not perfect and $$$$. 

Some manuals in traffic are better than others.  The Cummins wasn't much fun with a fairly heavy clutch and engagement really high in the pedal travel. Conversely, my 2003 TDI was easy to drive in traffic.  The super-light clutch pedal and nice mid-throw engagement helped a lot.  That combined with low-end diesel torque meant I could drive in stop-and-go traffic with only my left foot. 

The Volvo 1800ES is a bit of a mixed bag.  The M41 is the preferred transmission in those cars simply because the BW35 3 spd auto is so bad.  But I do wonder how a later 4 spd automatic with an overdrive gear would be. The M41 isn't a great transmission with a somewhat stiff cable clutch and long shifter throws. 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/7/22 4:19 p.m.
jharry3 said:
Appleseed said:

What's worse, an awful manual  or an awful automatic?

I remember GM having 2 speed automatics on some of their cars in the 60's/70's.  Low and High.   

Pretty much all makes started with a 2 speed auto.  GM's Powerglide was the standard drag transmission for a long time, and still is for certain applications.

The original Hydra-Matic was a four speed, but it did not have a torque converter, just a fluid coupler, so it needed the extra gears to be able to move one of those big old Cadillacs.  When they started using torque converters, they could reduce the number of forward gears, making the transmissions simpler and thus cheaper.

The original Corvette had a six cylinder and a 2 speed auto...

aircooled
aircooled MegaDork
11/7/22 4:21 p.m.
jharry3 said:
Appleseed said:

What's worse, an awful manual  or an awful automatic?

I remember GM having 2 speed automatics on some of their cars in the 60's/70's.  Low and High.   

That would be the Powerglide.  If two gears wasn't bad enough (shifts around 15 mph under low throttle), there is no park!  Better make sure you have a good e-brake!  (I had a bad experience with one, had a not-so- great e-brake... and I was in San Francisco!!)

They are pretty bulletproof though, variations are still used for high horsepower drag racing I believe.

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
11/7/22 4:28 p.m.
Ian F (Forum Supporter) said:

The Volvo 1800ES is a bit of a mixed bag.  The M41 is the preferred transmission in those cars simply because the BW35 3 spd auto is so bad.  But I do wonder how a later 4 spd automatic with an overdrive gear would be. The M41 isn't a great transmission with a somewhat stiff cable clutch and long shifter throws. 

I'm surprised to hear bad talk of the Volvo 4 speed. I've driven two cars with the M40 and it's one of my favorite manuals ever. I've not driven one with the remote shifter though, and wonder if that hurts it. Generally feels very precise and quick shifting.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/7/22 4:34 p.m.
aircooled said:
jharry3 said:
Appleseed said:

What's worse, an awful manual  or an awful automatic?

I remember GM having 2 speed automatics on some of their cars in the 60's/70's.  Low and High.   

That would be the Powerglide.  If two gears wasn't bad enough (shifts around 15 mph under low throttle), there is no park!  Better make sure you have a good e-brake!  (I had a bad experience with one, had a not-so- great e-brake... and I was in San Francisco!!)

They are pretty bulletproof though, variations are still used for high horsepower drag racing I believe.

Not all 'glides did not have Park.  I think Corvairs/Tempests did not but I know a lot of traditional transmissions did.

I put a drivetrain in a late Chevelle that had a 283/Powerglide combo.  It definitely had Park.  

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/7/22 4:38 p.m.

In reply to buzzboy :

Possible. My only experience is with my ex's car and my own ES, both of which have the rearward extensions for the shift lever - my understanding was it was done to allow for more room under the dashboard for the optional A/C unit. 

Oddly enough, in a Mini, the opposite is true: the often termed "magic wand" you referred to above has the lever attached directly to the gearbox, whereas the remote shifter feels a lot better. 

The '78 F150 4x4 (NP435 trans, IIRC) I had years ago had a direct mounted shifter and it was pretty vague with long throws.  Non-syncro granny 1st gear, so you always started in 2nd.  Third gear felt like you were punching the dashboard and 4th was into the bench seat - which was... interesting... if someone had to sit in the middle.

fidelity101
fidelity101 UberDork
11/7/22 4:42 p.m.
RadBarchetta said:

Chevy Cruze had the sloppiest, slowest manual transmission I've ever had the displeasure of driving. If stuff like that is reason for low take-rates, I can't say I blame anyone.

I came here to say this, I hate my wife's 2015 cruze, it doesn't even have cruise control... seriously! its so dull and lame it might as well be automatic, its not like engine operates (1.8L NA) operates any different at WOT/50% throttle or 10%...

 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/7/22 4:42 p.m.
buzzboy said:

Leyland/Austin Mini "pudding stick" is the worst ever. Mein gott is that thing garbage. The shift pattern is a box, not an H. I could never figure it out.

I'll also echo Pete about the Terminator. I've driven a GTO and that T56 was fine, but the one in the Cobra was super stiff with no indication of what gear it's in, or if it's in gear.

Not a 'Terminator'.  It was a MAF era 5.0 ('89, 91, something) with a built engine and a centrifugal supercharger and an appetite for head gaskets.  And a T56 swap.  I absolutely hated driving it.  I think the clutch quadrant and cable flexed and stretched more than the clutch fork actually moved, and you practically needed two hands to shift once you got both feet on the clutch pedal.

The shift action was very precise, the lever just needed to be about a foot longer smiley  And the clutch linkage/quadrant needed to be thrown very far away and a hydraulic system installed.

300zxfreak
300zxfreak Reader
11/7/22 5:04 p.m.

In reply to jharry3 :

That would be the ever popular Powerglide, my Mom had one in her '64 Nova Supersport, ruined what should have been a fun car.

300zxfreak
300zxfreak Reader
11/7/22 5:06 p.m.

P.S., hers did have Park

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
11/7/22 5:07 p.m.

I've driven several modern cars where poor throttle mapping and bad engine mounts can really ruin the manual driving experience.  My Kia Soul is not ruined, but its definitely a lot worse than it could be if the manufacturer gave a E36 M3.

If my Veloster didn't have the 'sport' setting, it probably would have been the same way.  Its was borderline undriveable in 'normal' mode.

 

I recall an article a few years back (10+?) where Car and Driver or Motortrend or whatever had a Manual Camry, which on paper was comparable to an Accord & Mazda 3, but the throttle mapping was so horrible that they basically said "do not consider the manual transmission version of this car".

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
11/7/22 6:02 p.m.

I've driven some vehicles with some pretty crappy manuals but I don't think the auto variants were any better.

kb58
kb58 UltraDork
11/7/22 6:05 p.m.

I had a mid-80s Mustang 5.0, and a mid-90s Camaro Z28. They were a contrast in character, but limiting this to shifter feel alone, the Mustang sucked, and the Camaro was great.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/7/22 6:05 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

Omg... I have a customer with a manual trans Veloster (naturally aspirated 1.6) and I despise driving it.  You think GM and Nissans are bad for throttle mapping...  when upshifting, I can lift off the throttle, count to two, depress the clutch, and the engine STILL revs up.  Makes smooth city driving impossible unless you want to shift so slowly you spend more time shifting than in gear.

 

The trans is okay, but the E throttle actively fights you.

Warlock
Warlock New Reader
11/7/22 8:03 p.m.

In reply to madmrak351 :

I have a 3-on-the-tree manual without a 1st gear synchro, and I still wouldn't trade it for an automatic, even when -- or especially when -- towing.  Painful as it may be in traffic, at least I know there's power being transmitted (or not), rather than wondering whether I'm just stirring transmission fluid into hot soup.

GCrites80s
GCrites80s Dork
11/7/22 8:09 p.m.
aircooled said:
jharry3 said:
Appleseed said:

What's worse, an awful manual  or an awful automatic?

I remember GM having 2 speed automatics on some of their cars in the 60's/70's.  Low and High.   

That would be the Powerglide.  If two gears wasn't bad enough (shifts around 15 mph under low throttle), there is no park!  Better make sure you have a good e-brake!  (I had a bad experience with one, had a not-so- great e-brake... and I was in San Francisco!!)

They are pretty bulletproof though, variations are still used for high horsepower drag racing I believe.

Buddy of mine just built a Firebird drag car with a 780HP, 8400RPM naturally-aspirated LS and put a Powerglide behind it.

GCrites80s
GCrites80s Dork
11/7/22 8:13 p.m.
kb58 said:

I had a mid-80s Mustang 5.0, and a mid-90s Camaro Z28. They were a contrast in character, but limiting this to shifter feel alone, the Mustang sucked, and the Camaro was great.

I wonder if these complaints with T5s and T56s in Mustangs are due to the much further forward shifter locations in relation to the transmission vs. the Camaros and Firebirds. Few complaints from the Camaro and Firebird crowd but it seems like a lot from Mustang users. On the Mustangs the shifter goes smack dab in the middle of the transmission but on the F-bodies it's all the way out back.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/7/22 8:18 p.m.

In reply to GCrites80s :

Interesting point.  I've driven a couple T56 Camaros and they were okay, once you got around the trashed 2nd and 3rd gear synchros, which is a specific-vehicle issue.

Also got to drive a T56 based trans in a 565ci Torino, and it was really nice.  It also had a moderately long shifter compared to a modern car, and I engineered the clutch hydraulics so of course I'm proud of how well that functioned smiley 

 

Also, the sound of that thing wailing at 7k through the dual 3" exhaust made me think I was at Talladega smiley  It did something like 650 ot 700hp at the wheels, through the mufflers.

 

I am still not keen on big block engine braking combined with a close ratio trans, but it is what it is.  The Torino was easier to drive than the 604ci Chevelle with a genuine M22.  That one would chirp the tires from engine braking if you didn't upshift fast enough in city driving.  I have too much mechanical sympathy to do that.

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
11/7/22 9:05 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

The shift action was very precise, the lever just needed to be about a foot longer smiley  And the clutch linkage/quadrant needed to be thrown very far away and a hydraulic system installed.

I want to try an SRT10 Ram for that reason. I like long and precise shifters.

paddygarcia
paddygarcia GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/7/22 9:16 p.m.

The Volvo m40/41 experience may have a lot to do with bushings. The stock long shifter in my 122 was wallowed out and felt like it, the nearly new remote shifter on the same trans isn't a miata but is quite nice.

crankwalk (Forum Supporter)
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
11/8/22 12:35 a.m.

Alfa spider veloce. Syncros were not smooth on a low mile gearbox and the ergonomics were terrrrrrible. On a 4-5 hour drive my arm was so tired. Just not comfortable and not as enjoyable to row the gears. 
 

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand New Reader
11/8/22 9:10 a.m.

My list is long and storied. One of the worst manuals I ever had was the 3 speed manual in a 68 corvair....sucky linkage, vague and sloppy but it worked. The worst automatic of that era was definitely the power glide in the ex's Chevy bel air boat paired to a 283. Still, it was decent on the highway but there was no passing gear above 60 mph. Low gear would wind up to 60 before the up shift took place if you were at full throttle, and while slow off the line it was reasonably peppy once the revs built up.   Fast forward a few years, the next most hated automatic was my ex's automatic Saturn which could never pick a gear for hilly terrain as the 1.9 liter engine had so little grunt that it had no power in any gear at any time which puts it in the same category as my 07 legacy wagon automatic....love the car hate the transmission. If only there was a way to lock the torque converter manually it would be much better. Best manual I have had is a tie between my 69 opel gt i had in college and the 05 legacy wagon i use as a track car....

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/8/22 9:21 a.m.

The manual transmission in my Baja was not great. The gearing just felt all wrong. It always felt like you were trying to take off in second gear, resulting in lots of stalls because no matter how fast you jammed the clutch in the engine would just shut off, and then going down the highway it felt like it needed another gear. I found myself looking down frequently to make sure I actually was in fifth gear. The shifter action wasn't bad, but it was a rare instance of wishing I had bought an automatic-equipped version instead.

I've also driven some of the early Vues and Equinoxes with the stick shift and they were just absolutely wretched. The shifter feel was absolutely wretched, like trying to steer concrete with a plastic spoon, and it was a trick just to find first. 

kb58
kb58 UltraDork
11/8/22 10:34 a.m.
GCrites80s said:
kb58 said:

I had a mid-80s Mustang 5.0, and a mid-90s Camaro Z28. They were a contrast in character, but limiting this to shifter feel alone, the Mustang sucked, and the Camaro was great.

I wonder if these complaints with T5s and T56s in Mustangs are due to the much further forward shifter locations in relation to the transmission vs. the Camaros and Firebirds. Few complaints from the Camaro and Firebird crowd but it seems like a lot from Mustang users. On the Mustangs the shifter goes smack dab in the middle of the transmission but on the F-bodies it's all the way out back.

No it wasn't that, as the shifter seemed reasonably well-placed. It was just really notchy, and the shift gates never seemed to be exactly where you intuitively expected them to be. The Z28 was totally different - that shifter was a real treat to use, with each gear always easily at-hand and dropping in as expected. Now, as for the reliability of the two cars, that's a rant for another thread...

AndyHess
AndyHess New Reader
11/8/22 11:06 a.m.

Hmmm.  The stock 4-speed on my first car, '65 Mustang 289 was fantastic.  Never bothered with a Hurst conversion.  Was selling VW's when Golfs first sold in the mid-80's.  The 5-speed was designed such that, if you tried shifting into reverse without coming to an absolute complete stop - sometimes to the point of actually waiting a couple seconds after stopping, you could chip a synchronizer tooth and VW would resist the warranty claim - bad gearbox.  I think VW eventually redesigned it.  The 4-speed in my Datsun 1600 was excellent, and the shift feel in my 2010 Camaro SS with a Hurst short shift kit is by-god-outstanding.  That Tremec 6060 seems like it needs to warm up a tad before giving smooth 1-2 shifts but otherwise is an asset on canyon and mountain runs.  I prefer auto's in big trucks, but my retired DC-10 pilot wife ordered her 7.3 L F250 with a manual and it shifts great once you get past the 3-foot long stick.  

MiniDave
MiniDave Reader
11/8/22 11:55 a.m.

It won't be a popular response, but to me so many of these stories sound more like inexperienced drivers or just down to operator error.

Ergonomics is a factor no doubt, and some cars just seem to fight the driver by making the controls so awkward to reach or operate, I'm sure that contributes. I don't fit an Alfa Spyder at all, for example, so that makes it uncomfortable to drive far.....but that's down to me, not the car.

The 64 Mustang my dad bought (shoulda had a V8!) with the 6 cyl 3 speed had a very weird throttle, seems like either it had nothing or revved to the moon, which made learning to drive on it ....well, an experience. But since I was 16 I didn't give it a second thought and before long I had it down and it wasn't an issue. My mom on the other hand, frequently tried to go up our hill by starting out in 3rd gear and hip hopping as the engine wound up the drive line and released.

Fiats in the 70's also felt like they had a giant rubber band between the engine and the rear axle, but once you got used to it, no biggy.....

But to me manual transmissions just are.....you just use them and they do the job.

My classic Mini has a rod change gearbox, the last version they built and it works brilliantly although you can beat the synchros if you try hard enough. The earlier remotes were pretty good till the myriad bushings wore and the "magic wand" or "puddin stirrers" were - well - fun! But if you had any mechanical sympathy at all it worked fine once you figured it out.....

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
11/8/22 1:01 p.m.

I'm not sure if I have enough personal experience, but I will say that I'll always applaud an OEM for offering a manual–whether its in a sports car or a humble appliance.

billstewartx
billstewartx Reader
11/8/22 1:40 p.m.
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) said:

Alfa spider veloce. Syncros were not smooth on a low mile gearbox and the ergonomics were terrrrrrible. On a 4-5 hour drive my arm was so tired. Just not comfortable and not as enjoyable to row the gears. 

oh. my. gawd. 

one of the best gearboxes. Ever. 

msterbeau
msterbeau Reader
11/8/22 3:29 p.m.
Appleseed said:

What's worse, an awful manual  or an awful automatic?

A bad manual is still better than a good automatic. :-)

msterbeau
msterbeau Reader
11/8/22 3:37 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

In reply to ProDarwin :

Omg... I have a customer with a manual trans Veloster (naturally aspirated 1.6) and I despise driving it.  You think GM and Nissans are bad for throttle mapping...  when upshifting, I can lift off the throttle, count to two, depress the clutch, and the engine STILL revs up.  Makes smooth city driving impossible unless you want to shift so slowly you spend more time shifting than in gear.

 

The trans is okay, but the E throttle actively fights you.

Would that be the first gen or second gen Veloster?  I had a second generation R-Spec and the throttle pedal seemed kind of high. There would often be times that I would let off the throttle to shift but I had to really TAKE MY FOOT OFF or it the pedal would still be depressed a little with predictable results. At the same time, the release for the clutch was way down in the travel so getting a fore/aft seating position that accommodated both was damn near impossible.   

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
11/8/22 3:52 p.m.

I had a 2nd gen, but didn't notice either of those issues.  The main issue I had was I had to hit 'sport' or whatever mode whenever I got in the car or I would stall it.  One time I tried to pull out into traffic and immediately stalled several times in a row before realizing it was in 'normal' driving mode.  

Hyundai does some weird programming E36 M3.  Remember this is also the car that you can't fully defeat stability control on.  And a car that rather than make peak torque consistently, climbs until it hits a number, gets kicked in the face by the ECU, then climbs back up again repeatedly.

cyow5
cyow5 Reader
11/8/22 4:10 p.m.
Appleseed said:

What's worse, an awful manual  or an awful automatic?

Sometimes an automatic is bad because of *how* it shifts, but usually it is bad because of *when*  or *if* it shifts. With even the worst manual I've driven (nothing like some of the dinosaurs mentioned in this thread), I could at least control the *when* and even the *how*. Sure, the clutch and lever might as well been drive-by-wire for how vague they were, I could still make it do what I wanted. 

cyow5
cyow5 Reader
11/8/22 4:12 p.m.
ProDarwin said:

I had a 2nd gen, but didn't notice either of those issues.  The main issue I had was I had to hit 'sport' or whatever mode whenever I got in the car or I would stall it.  One time I tried to pull out into traffic and immediately stalled several times in a row before realizing it was in 'normal' driving mode.  

Hyundai does some weird programming E36 M3.  Remember this is also the car that you can't fully defeat stability control on.  And a car that rather than make peak torque consistently, climbs until it hits a number, gets kicked in the face by the ECU, then climbs back up again repeatedly.

My '14 JCW was very similar to this. Sport mode was just reasonable mode, and normal mode was "xanax mixed with vodka" mode. 

bumpsteer
bumpsteer New Reader
11/8/22 9:10 p.m.

The one in the Wreck Racing Insight probably counts

crankwalk (Forum Supporter)
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
11/9/22 12:52 a.m.
billstewartx said:
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) said:

Alfa spider veloce. Syncros were not smooth on a low mile gearbox and the ergonomics were terrrrrrible. On a 4-5 hour drive my arm was so tired. Just not comfortable and not as enjoyable to row the gears. 

oh. my. gawd. 

one of the best gearboxes. Ever. 

I disagree. Italians can make nice gearboxes but super fragile 2nd gear syncros  and bad ergonomics didn't do it for me. Going from that to my BMW 2002 was night and day different.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/9/22 8:37 a.m.

In reply to crankwalk (Forum Supporter) :

I wonder if that is cultural.  A road test of an early Ferrari (think 2 liter V12 kind of thing) had the driver mention that the gearbox was completely unsynchronized but you didn't really need it, just a quick double clutch and it snicked right into gear.

 

I really like the shifter position on that car.  Prefer shifters with the pivot NOT under the knob, feels more natural somehow.  Even the backwards Cobra shifter feels good.

93EXCivic
93EXCivic MegaDork
11/9/22 8:55 a.m.

The only one I can think of is the 81 Scirocco I used to co-drive. It was fine when the shift bushings were fresh but they would wear out within a season of using the car.

crankwalk (Forum Supporter)
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
11/9/22 10:57 a.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

In reply to crankwalk (Forum Supporter) :

I wonder if that is cultural.  A road test of an early Ferrari (think 2 liter V12 kind of thing) had the driver mention that the gearbox was completely unsynchronized but you didn't really need it, just a quick double clutch and it snicked right into gear.

 

I really like the shifter position on that car.  Prefer shifters with the pivot NOT under the knob, feels more natural somehow.  Even the backwards Cobra shifter feels good.

I don't think it is cultural. I've driven lots of Italian stuff and that one stuck out for how uncomfortable it was for any length of time and how notchy it was for a low low miles unit. 
 


 

Cramped driving position and tight pedal box is an Italian thing but not necessarily the shifter in an awkward spot straight in front of you. I'm not a lazy driver that needs an armrest and 4 cup holders but I think an armrest would have done wonders to how I felt about the transmission. 

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/9/22 1:03 p.m.

I'll go against the general enthusiast grain here.  I'd say any new manual transmission made in the last 10 years is bad, maybe pointlessly irrelevant is more accurate.  Not because they are objectively poor, but because technology and development have overcome their advantage.  A modern electronically controlled trans and torque convertor is every bit as good, normally better than a manual. Now, many love their manuals, and are of the 'out of my cold dead hands' mentality, Fair enough.  I count that view the same as my daughter preferring horses over cars.  She might enjoy them, but there's zero need for them by any objective and almost all subjective reasons beyond 'fun' for them.

BTW, I'm not some young kid who grew up with auto's, I"m in my mid 50's and didn't own an automatic car until this century.  I grew up with the mindset that the only reason to own an automatic was because you lacked the request limbs to operate a manual.  That was back when automatics meant three speed slush boxes that took an age to react, had horribly inconsistent slippy TC's and sapped so much power that you need an egg timer to record 0-60.  But I did grow up where a 1.6L 4cyl making 60-90hp was the average family car.  Recently I got my old Volvo C30 back on the road, and honestly expected to be nostalgic about the manual and wondered if I'd stat missing a manual in my other cars.  Nope, not one bit. I'll even take my (now ancient technology) ZF 5HP in my 986 Boxster over a manual for daily driving.

P.S. I count DSG's and flappy paddles as autos not manuals.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
11/9/22 1:10 p.m.
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) said:

A modern electronically controlled trans and torque convertor is every bit as good, normally better than a manual.

Have you driven a peasant grade rental car?

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/9/22 1:12 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

Fair point no I haven't, but most of what I posted was purposefully the opposing view as so many still look down on owners of 'enthusiast cars' with auto's as not real enthusiasts.  Now that view has it's upside, as when I'm searching for my next car I'll happily be able to find one much cheaper than the manual versions that are earning ridiculous premiums.

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/9/22 1:29 p.m.
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) said:
billstewartx said:
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) said:

Alfa spider veloce. Syncros were not smooth on a low mile gearbox and the ergonomics were terrrrrrible. On a 4-5 hour drive my arm was so tired. Just not comfortable and not as enjoyable to row the gears. 

oh. my. gawd. 

one of the best gearboxes. Ever. 

I disagree. Italians can make nice gearboxes but super fragile 2nd gear syncros  and bad ergonomics didn't do it for me. Going from that to my BMW 2002 was night and day different.

Regarding Italian Transmissions.  Ferrari's varied  from the rather fragile 5 speed behind most of the late 50's to early 60's 250's series V12's. 
  Let down further by a very marginal clutch.  As Power increase in the mid and late 60's. They would strengthen the gears. Only to have the clutch let them down.   Then beef up the clutch until  your left leg would quiver   Trying to push it in.  The absolute worst I ever drove was Carl Larson's 330. A nice sophisticated sedan with a very smooth  responsive engine.  But that clutch!!  Impossibly stiff. Almost a guarantee  that a novice would stall the engine the first time driving it. And then restart the engine, rev it to forever Jesus and basically dump the clutch to get going.  Once rolling the best technique to shifting was to match gears and not use the clutch at all. 

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/9/22 1:45 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

In reply to GCrites80s :

Interesting point.  I've driven a couple T56 Camaros and they were okay, once you got around the trashed 2nd and 3rd gear synchros, which is a specific-vehicle issue.

Also got to drive a T56 based trans in a 565ci Torino, and it was really nice.  It also had a moderately long shifter compared to a modern car, and I engineered the clutch hydraulics so of course I'm proud of how well that functioned smiley 

 

Also, the sound of that thing wailing at 7k through the dual 3" exhaust made me think I was at Talladega smiley  It did something like 650 ot 700hp at the wheels, through the mufflers.

 

I am still not keen on big block engine braking combined with a close ratio trans, but it is what it is.  The Torino was easier to drive than the 604ci Chevelle with a genuine M22.  That one would chirp the tires from engine braking if you didn't upshift fast enough in city driving.  I have too much mechanical sympathy to do that.

My objection to the Muncie. Was how mushy the transmission case was.  
     I used a M22 for the DeMar  even when I could get brand new cases 1 weekend was all it was good for.  Then I'd dimple the front bearing back into alignment, rebuild the gears etc. and it was good for 1 more day. 
    When I ran out of new cases, I'd have a local machinist bore out the  worn out bearing hole and put in a 6061 T6 bushing to hold the bearing in alignment. That usually got me another weekend. 
   Luckily the gears, syncro's and shafts  were almost always available. It really took some serious misalignment to ruin them.   
    To be fair the year I raced it we never had any transmission problem.  Change the fluid after every session was the only maintenance.  Sometimes I didn't even do that.    
         But Carl just didn't seem to have the knack.  

crankwalk (Forum Supporter)
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
11/9/22 2:57 p.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

My experience with manual Ferraris  has just been with the v8s and they've all been great even shifting 7k + rpm's and with light clutches.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
11/9/22 3:00 p.m.
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to ProDarwin :

Fair point no I haven't, but most of what I posted was purposefully the opposing view as so many still look down on owners of 'enthusiast cars' with auto's as not real enthusiasts.  Now that view has it's upside, as when I'm searching for my next car I'll happily be able to find one much cheaper than the manual versions that are earning ridiculous premiums.

I would agree that the premium, sports car or sporty-ish focused autos are not bad, and can often offer advantages.  The lower grade autos especially in lower power cars are garbage from a performance standpoint.  A manual in a B-spec car is a night and day difference vs. auto

Turbine
Turbine GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/9/22 4:09 p.m.

I'm not saying I prefer it over a manual, but I'm pretty pleased with the DSG in my Passat TDI.

The worst manual I've used was the 4 speed in my Uncle's 84 Iron Duke Fiero. The car was pretty rough though, so it might have just been due to wear.

The Audi transmissions I've used aren't great objectively, but they have their own charm. The 01e in my urs6 had pretty long throws and didn't like fast shifts, but it was easy to find gears, and the transmission itself was ridiculously tough. The 016 in my 200 offers better feel now that the shift bushings have been replaced, but they're weaker than the 01e.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/9/22 4:16 p.m.

In reply to Turbine :

I liked the 016 in my Quantum, had much closer ratios than the large chassis cars got.  You could keep the engine on boil between 3500 and 4500 all the way up to 75 laugh

The clutch was horrendous.  It engaged on the floor.

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/9/22 4:40 p.m.
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to frenchyd :

My experience with manual Ferraris  has just been with the v8s and they've all been great even shifting 7k + rpm's and with light clutches.

I haven't driven any of the new V8's. In fact I've never driven any Ferrari after the mid 60's  

 Enzo was still in a horsepower race at that time.   His V12's were his answer.  And he had others concerned about transmissions ( with an accordingly small budget).   
In fact all they way to the GTO. He still used the same geometry. Since the bodies were farmed out, he could focus on extracting power from the engine.    ( I'd love to study the Formula 1    1 &1/2 Liter cars and compare the geometry  to the later 3.0 liter cars to see what changes those cars got.  
I'm sorry, I digress. 

dxman92
dxman92 Dork
11/10/22 2:15 a.m.

The one I test drove in the Subaru Crosstrek was less than stellar a few years back. Felt like driving a tractor.

freetors
freetors Reader
11/11/22 5:55 p.m.

I will also agree on the "regular" Subarus with manuals. The Forester I test drive once felt awful, like it was truly an afterthought.

My jeep jk Wrangler could certainly be better. The transmission itself is fine and reasonably smooth, but the shift tower has really poor detents that can pop out of gear on rough enough roads. The shifter is also very rubbery mounted. Also the way the pedals are arranged makes heel and toe shifting extremely hard. 

Some will probably disagree, but I find my s2000's gears to be way too close together left to right.

mblommel
mblommel Dork
11/11/22 7:07 p.m.

2020 Tacoma V6 6speed, just awful. Test drove the automatic the same day and you can tell all the development went into the auto.

1984 Ford Tempo, no idea what gear you may be in

2002 Ford Focus SVT, seems like they used the parts bin from the Tempo

 

 

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
11/11/22 7:46 p.m.

In reply to freetors :

What year Forester? I drove a 2004 for 50,000 and quite liked the transmission. Crisper than some other appliances. Very similar feel to a 4th gen Prelude if I recall. My only complaints were more for the overly low diff gearing making all the gears feel too close.

In reply to mblommel:

The 2nd gen Tacoma also had a garbage feeling trans. Dad jumped from a 1993 PU to a 2010 Taco. The Taco was much worse in every way including that rubbery appendage jutting up from the floor.

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) UltimaDork
11/11/22 9:20 p.m.

Mazda H-type 5-speed in the GD chassis 626/MX-6 Turbo.  Nothing special to drive, not bad, but also not up to the torque of the factory engine.  It's the reason I wouldn't go looking for another of these cars, having been burned by the transmission in the past.

mblommel
mblommel Dork
11/11/22 9:32 p.m.

In reply to buzzboy :

I had a 1992 Toyota pickup 5 speed and it was awesome. It was so disappointing to drive that new one and have it be a broomstick attached to bungee cords. 

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